Well known businessman Akis Lefkaritis, 59, who was sentenced to 12 years in jail after pleading guilty to charges of sexually exploiting two girls, aged 14 and 15, had his sentence reduced by the supreme court by three years over “mistakes” made by the Larnaca criminal court.
Nicos Nicolaou, 37, who was implicated in the same case, also had his June 2014, 10-year sentence reduced by the same number of years, with the appeals court making reference to mistakes made by the first court.
Both convicts had appealed the sentence considering it manifestly excessive.
Lefkaritis’ lawyer, supporting the position of his client that the penalty imposed was excessive, argued that the criminal court had not ascribed due consideration to his client’s immediate admission and remorse, as well as the fact no violence, physical, or mental had been used and that the sexual act was not the result of coercion.
The defence also argued that neither his client’s clean criminal record and previous good character were given gravity, nor his health problems, or the impact of the sentence on his personal and family life.
The effects on his professional career were also brought up, since, as a result of his incarceration, he had lost his management job and executive remuneration amounting € 360.000 per year, which was devastating for him and his family, the court heard.
Also not duly taken into account, according to the lawyer, was the damaging misleading publicity and brutal vilification suffered by his client in the media and social media, which exposed him to public ridicule and disgust.
The three-judge appeals court unanimously accepted the appeals of the two convicts reducing their sentences to nine years for Lefkaritis and seven for Nicolaou.
In its decision, the supreme court said there were factors that made the case very serious, such as Lefkaritis’ repeated criminal behaviour with the younger of the two victims, as well as the age difference between the defendants and the victims.
To their credit however, there were compelling mitigating factors, the main being the immediate and complete remorse of the appellants to which due weight was not given.
The decision said that, from the arguments put forward by Lefkaritis’ lawyer for reduction of his sentence, the lack of knowledge on his part of the dire economic situation of the juvenile victims, which was not brought up in the criminal court, counted in favour of his client.
“Based on all the facts put before us, we believe that the confession and acknowledgment of both appellants was not proportionally reflected in the sentence,” the court decision said, adding that it became necessary that the sentences imposed by the criminal court to be reduced accordingly to be free from the identified errors in reflecting adequately the importance of their admissions.
The Cyprus women’s lobby reacted to the decision saying “The decision of the Supreme Court reflects the patriarchal and gendered attitudes and stereotypes of its members that place blame on the victims. Sexual abuse/exploitation of children, rape and sexual violence are among the most serious human rights violations and as active citizens we demand that penalties reflect the gravity of the crime.”
“As active members of civil society, we express zero tolerance to sexual abuse and exploitation of children and rape culture and victim blaming. We demand justice for victims of sexual violence as well as the imposition of penalties and sentences that correspond to the severity of the crime and serve as a deterrent to perpetrators.”
The group are planning to gather outside the supreme court on Friday to demonstrate against what they called a mockery of justice, an offence to the victims, which sends dangerous messages to society on how Cyprus deals with cases of sexual exploitation of minors, and violence against women and girls.